Albrecht Dürer, ‘THE BIRTH OF THE VIRGIN’, ca. 1503-04, Christopher-Clark Fine Art

Original woodcut printed in black ink on laid paper bearing the “Escutcheon with Diagonal Beam” watermark (Meder 246)

Signed in the block with the artist’s monogram on a tablet lower center.

A strong, dark and unusually fine late 16th century Meder “h” impression, with no letterpress text on the verso, but with none of the damage to the block associated with impressions from this era, printed circa 1600. One of 20 woodcuts (frontispiece and 19 plates) issued in the album The Life of the Virgin.

Catalog: Bartsch 80; Kurth 178; Meder 192.h; Panofsky 300; Strauss 78; Schoch/Mende/Scherbaum 170
Dürer’s setting for this woodcut is a typically German interior of the sixteenth century in which thirteen women in three distinct groupings are busily engaged in the tasks related to child-birth. Three of them on the left, form a triangle as a contrapposto to the opening of the drapes of the Virgin’s beadstead. The woman drinking has a knife in a sheath tied to her belt, and may be the midwife. The guardian angel, carrying a censer, invisible to the participants because he is pictured above a fringe of clouds, not only fills the otherwise empty space in the upper half of the sheet, but most importantly, serves as the only reminder of the solemn occasion. Dürer has added several amusing details: an elderly woman has fallen asleep, the infant is getting her first bath in the foreground, a pair of scissors has been placed on the chest on the left.

Signature: Signed in the block with the artist’s monogram on a tablet lower center.

Albrecht Dürer: Master Printmaker, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1971, nos. 67-68, p. 92 (ill.).

About Albrecht Dürer

Considered one of the foremost artists of the Renaissance period, Albrecht Dürer’s extensive work in printmaking transformed the categorization of the medium from craft to fine art. Often depicting religious subjects, Dürer’s woodcuts and engravings demonstrated unprecedented technical skill, tonal variation, and compositional sophistication. Dürer theorized extensively on linear perspective and anatomical proportion, concerns that were articulated in a vast body of written work as well as in his paintings and prints. Dürer’s skill earned him the role of court artist for Holy Roman Emperors Maximilian I and Charles V, under whom he created a number of paintings and altarpieces. Dürer’s series of self-portraits, created throughout his career, represent some of his most iconic works.

German, 1471-1528, Nuremberg, Germany, based in Nuremberg, Germany